Transform your dog walks in just five minutes a day

Pulling on the lead, chasing sheep and not coming back: How to solve your dog walking nightmares

One of the greatest joys of dog ownership is heading out for a walk with your faithful friend. But for many, that joy can turn into a doggy disaster if you have a badly behaved pooch.

From pulling on leads, chasing livestock, lunging at other dogs or just not coming back when called – it seems every dog owner has a tale (or should I say tail) of woe about dog walks going wrong.

There are more than 13 million dogs in the UK, and although the biggest reason for getting a dog is for companionship, almost half of those getting a dog say they are doing it to get more exercise.

So what do you do if walkies has turned into a nightmare? Dog trainer Nick Price says five minutes a day can transform the relationship between you and your dog.

A group of dogs sitting and behaving well in the countrysideCredit: Nick Price

Dog training tips

How five minutes a day can make a difference

Price is a qualified dog trainer and retired police dog handler. His videos have reached 5.1 million people on social media.

Price says your relationship with your dog is the key to enjoying walks together. “You can’t expect them to behave perfectly if you don’t put the time and effort into training,” he says.

“Training should be fun for you and your dog, and just five minutes a day is all it needs to make a difference.

“Always remember to reward your dog for the correct actions and keep your sessions short and achievable. You won’t transform your dog’s behaviour overnight, so try not to rush things.

“Don’t endlessly drill your dog. It doesn’t achieve anything. Instead keep training short, specific, achievable and enjoyable for you and your dog.”

Two puppies playingCredit: Nick Price

Here, Price gives his advice on how to deal with some of the common problems you may have when out walking with your dog.

How to stop your dog pulling on the lead

My dog pulls on the lead

Price says that dogs pulling on the lead is one of the biggest issues that owners turn to him for help with. He says the key to this is teaching your dog how to behave when they are on a lead.

A correctly fitted collar is vital

You don’t need any gadgets, just ensure your dog’s collar is well fitting, says Price. He doesn’t recommend dog harnesses for most breeds as they give the dog something to pull against. “Imagine a dog pulling a sled,” he says. “However, if you have a brachial dog (such as a bulldog or boxer) you may need to use a harness for welfare reasons.”

Don’t let your dog set the pace

Price says the owner must set the speed and direction of the walk – not the dog. “You decide where you go and how fast. Your dog needs to learn to walk alongside you without pulling on the lead,” he explains. “Otherwise the walk will end up leaving you exhausted and frustrated.”

He says the key to good behaviour on a lead is training little and often.

“You need to keep your dog’s attention. Use a favourite toy or treat to start with to help you get your dog’s focus. Walk along with your dog next to you so they understand what you want them to do – and as soon as they get it right give them loads of praise.”

Don’t expect miracles overnight, he says. “To start with you may only get a few paces of good work, but that is what you will build on each day.”

A dog on a leadCredit: Nick Price

Dog recall problems

My dog won’t come back

Price says recalling your dog is another big problem for dog owners.

“The problem is most owners only recall their dog when it’s time to go home or they are going to be put on a lead. In the dog’s mind, coming back to their owner isn’t a fun thing to do – so what is their motivation to come back to you?”

He recommends practising in a safe environment such as your garden or living room. “Give your dog a reason to come back to you,” he says. “Praise and a pat on the head is worth more than a treat to a dog, so make a real fuss of them when they come back to you.”

Make a fuss of your dog

“Outside on walks I call my dogs back frequently to make a fuss of them, maybe give them a treat or I pop the lead on for a few minutes, then let them off again. From the dog’s point of view this makes coming back to me a positive experience.

“Use simple commands with a good tone of voice and positive body language. Calling them in an aggravated or upset voice rarely gets results.”

Price also advises never let your dog move too far away from you, recommending that you imagine a 10 metre (32ft) circle around you that the dog can move freely in. However, as soon as they step outside that invisible boundary you need to call them back.

“If you keep it consistent, your dog will soon learn how far they can go away from you,” he says.

A dog trainer working with this dogs in the Scottish countrysideCredit: Nick Price

Create distractions

Once you’ve established a basic recall, you can then introduce distractions in an enclosed area, says Price.

“Don’t start on this until your dog is already coming back to you. So many people jump straight to this and then wonder why their dog is ignoring them when there is something else going on.

“Introduce another person or another dog to your training – anything that might take their attention off you. Then always remember to make returning to you enjoyable for them and give them lots of praise.”

Dog chasing livestock

My dog chases sheep or other livestock

We all remember the famous Fenton video.

Price has a stern warning for owners walking their dogs near livestock.

“The answer is simple,” he says. “Always keep your dog on a lead around livestock, deer or any other distractions. The management of your dog is your responsibility, so always err on the side of safety.”

He says that working dogs have been trained around livestock and have been introduced gradually and under control from a very young age.

“Very few people have access to livestock to train their dogs,” he says. “So unless you own a flock of sheep, it’s not going to be easy for you to train your dog to be good with livestock.

“Just keep your dog on a lead, it will save a lot of heartache.”

A puppy looking at the cameraCredit: Nick Price

Dog lunging on the lead

My dog lunges at other people or dogs

Price says if you have a problem with this, you need to work on keeping your dog’s attention.

“If you haven’t taught a dog good lead work, then lunging can become a big problem.” He adds: “If you have a dog who is reactive, then you need to learn to manage this situation before it escalates.”

He recommends taking action as soon as you see another person or dog. “Move over to the other side of the pathway, or even cross the road, to create a safe distance. Then put yourself between them and your dog.

“If you get tense or upset, then your dog could pick up on this too, and that could make it even more reactive. This behaviour can stem from a lack of confidence and fear. So try to remain calm and give your dog lots of praise when it keeps its focus on you.”

A group of dogs in the countryside at sunsetCredit: Nick Price

My dog is too scared to go out

My dog doesn’t want to go on a walk

Price says this is a problem that leaves many owners bewildered. They can’t understand why their dog refuses to leave the house for a walk when it’s something that dogs naturally enjoy.

“This normally happens because they are anxious or scared. Perhaps something happened to them as a pup that overwhelmed them or left them frightened,” he explains.

He recommends going back to basics and doing some training in your garden or living room. Use a toy or a treat to reward your dog for good behaviour and help boost their confidence. “Then when you are both feeling more confident, head out the front door,” he says. “Choose the right location for your walks with a nervous dog – so, not next to a busy road or a place where there is a lot for them to cope with. Pick a quieter location for these walks so that the dog has positive experiences.”

A dog in the countryside with the sun settingCredit: Nick Price

Price says it’s important for the dog owner to remain calm and confident at all times with a nervous dog.

“Your dog will look to you for guidance and to tell them it’s OK,” he says. “If you pick them up and panic every time you see another dog, then pretty soon your dog sees that as a problem.”

He recommends taking your dog somewhere quiet or arrange to meet someone with a friendly dog to go walking with to help create more positive experiences.

“Dog ownership should be fun,” says Price. “But you also need to play your part and be a responsible owner. Just five minutes a day can increase the bond between you and your dog, improve their behaviour and make your walks together more enjoyable.”

Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her


Phillipa Cherryson is Saga Exceptional’s Fitness Channel Editor. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV.

Her passion is outdoor fitness. She’s a trainee mountain leader; an Ordnance Survey Champion; she organises walks and instructional events for South Wales members of online community the Adventure Queens and she’s vice chair of the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Local Access Forum.

She hated sports at school and only started getting the fitness bug as she reached her 50s. Now she loves mountain walking, trail runs, e-biking, paddleboarding and climbing. She also loves cake.

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